John Bennett ~ a commonplace book (blog)

August 17 to Sept 27 Worth Words, photographs and poetry - Matilda St Gallery, Macksville

This is the edge of the world, free of embellishment,

but dangerous, two deaths in these waters so far this year,

so I practice my moves, a marine martial art warding off

the sea’s white tongue using techniques evolved from Knut

son of Svein Forkbeard, son of Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm,

Pete and swimming lessons at Worthing Aquareena.

No-one sleeps here, or has any memory of doing so, just

making passion, fireworks and sand grains irritating the tracts.

The  ocean unfolds continually and predictably, but chaos

reigns with each momentum, rock fishermen on the point

watch amplitudes and a naked woman dissolving in sea haze

south where the surfers float and read the waves.

Ghost crabs scuttle focus on the frontier spirit as an osprey

flying north harried by an eagle drops its silver fish.


and Bron is showing a new series of lino-cuts based on old Valla stories.

Coming the weekend of the Grand finals (Go the Swans)
Indigenous Peoples Village at the Bellingen Showgrounds, loaded with interesting events, story tellers, musics


The BRWF 2012 (BRWF) has finished - a long, exhausting  weekend of great writers, great weather – great feedback already:

"Thanks for a wonderful festival. I’ve been to heaps over the years, but rarely have enjoyed such hospitality and conviviality. Congratulations to you both, and your team of kind and capable volunteers. Thanks again." Morris Gleitzman

"The Bellingen festival surpassed all expectations. it was warm, with a wide welcome, a great variety of inventive, enjoyable, and meaningful opportunities to listen and speak. thanks so much for the opportunity to participate." debbie rose

"The scale and spirit of your festival, not to mention the intelligence of everything about it and the wonder of that scenery you've got up there, made your festival, for me, one of the loveliest I've attended." Mark Tredinnick

“I just wanted to congratulate you all on a great festival weekend, and to thank you for the opportunity to be involved. It was a pleasure – stimulating, cruisy, interesting and fun.” Laurel Cohn

"I have been meaning to be in touch to thank and congratulate you on a most surprisingly wonderful festival ! I bet you have been getting smashed with letters of praise and adulation. We truly had a great time of it, especially the breakfast event that was blessed by sun, waves and community interest." Taylor Miller 
With surfing legend Rusty Miller at Valla Beach - kicking off BRWF 2012 with surfing stories - image Taylor Miller 
We had a wonderful range of writers and a slew of poets: Mark Tredinnick, Peter Boyle, Alan Gould, Bronwyn Lea, Martin Harrison, Kit Kelen and Michael Sharkey - locals Brian Hawkins, Liz Routledge, Gumabynggirr elder Auntie Emily Walker and slam poets from Brisbane and around.

My highlight as a poet was paddling down the Bellinger.
See Advocate article.

BRWF 2011

Winner of the inaugural Jack Iggulden Award for Indigenous Writing, Aunty Bea Ballangarry,
with festival artistic director, John Bennett (left) and festival founder, Brain Purcell.

Photo, Ute Schulenberg, Coffs Coast Advocate

November project - poem/s & image/s each day
Nov 14

Our way to the beach is baulked by two roos, a young male and small female.

They pose in a tableau, granting us full attention,

We turn our backs, pretend to look for a Spotted Pardolote singing

an exquisite triad the last two high notes repeated as if that’s that,

then they repeat the whole song like a mantra.

The roos resume cropping the track. They are made of fur and instinct,

objects of wonder and love, but we slowly resume moving towards the sea

abandoning any hope of that unobtainable state of grace,

of meaning no harm ever, of utter generosity.

The ground repays attention, its rough marquetry lavishes

quality elements of form and colour in various versions

designer’s inventiveness anywhere you look, but all the creations

are foxed, stained, with small tears and creases (bitten).

The forest ends onto slender dunes and the amazing sequence

of colours and blocks of materials endlessly rearranged as beach,

both ends illegible, sea-mist stalling colour and hiding the world.

The seas skips in, tongues licking up the slope, gilding the sand

as they retreat triggering a series of dainty entropic fountains,

replicating the jeu d'eau  of Italian Renaissance gardens at crab scale,

a bubbling beach with air forced back up into circulation, breathing in

the ozone rumour, in reality the fresh scent of dimethyl sulphide,

haphazard release by nervous plankton and bacteria

and the exhalations of whales still passing south to Antarctica for summer

and the eagle that drifted over yesterday, and momentarily silicon

is suggestive of glass, a liquid capturing light and energy.


Seawashed shells pool lustrous diffusions

formal delights the eye evolves with.

and simple forms wrapping a surprise

to delight the human eye has evolved with.

Nov 4


Breakfast News Theories

                                    for Liz Keen, Nov 4 2011


This slice of horizon is a knife edge of sunspill,

a physicist’s theory of light skimming below bulk

shadows ‘not visible on the radar’. The weather

is happening right now with the koel’s insistent yelp

piercing the double-glazed picture windows.


There is so much more to this moment than interest

rates and cricket fixing - I’ve turned to music,

the thin sound of a violin stretches the room's

natural amplitude the way the best Sung ceramics

start afresh from the behaviour of clay on the wheel.


Last night, the stars wheeled across the sky

the spokes of the universe appeared through cloud.



Online marginalia reads ‘Lohan jailed for 30 days’,

was this one of Buddha’s 18 disciples entrusted

to uphold the Law? They were worshipped

for an ability to pacify wild animals and meditate

so deeply that trees grew up around them.


Is that a mutant form of anorexia, or form of loving?

For some, 15 minutes of fame lingers a little longer,

30 days is nothing for a Lohan, but what could

cause an invasion of police? Bodily needs,

excessive envy, unfamiliarity with empathy


or separation from the animals we co-evolved

with but who are losing their grip on existence?

It is risky releasing a poem into the world quickly (in this case 20 minutes) - many need to hibernate for weeks or months before the poet listens to the poem again, with fresh ears.

I mean to link poems and theory more closely to images - just came across the blog of Cherise Asmah and remembered she had requested some writing - I sent her a piece on ecopoetics and natural sculptures with images.

Valla Beach scene the morning after

My Camp Creative course (Jan 9) now complete:
 'Writing Nature Poetry – renewing the tradition'
Comments on my previous course:
"Wonderful +++++ . . . such a generous teacher.
"I have done 7 courses, 4 of them writing and this was by far the best. I was the most productive and learnt so much.
"Excellent course. John was a very good teacher. Highly creative and mind expanding."

Note - 2008. After an online hiatus of nearly ten years
having maintained a website
in the nineties I then undertook a PhD in poetics.
I return to cyberspace with a variety of recent projects.  
website statistics

Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit. Horace

A new website has been developed 
guarenteed 100% full of goodness
and even Columbus could find his way around

12th. After three months, our mini-drought has broken and the garden nourished up.
The creek is running and overflowing into its side channels, still the Crinum Lilies
are mere long sluggish buds under the sombre forest casuarinas and paperbarks.
Naturally I get my first leech bite for over three months and first mosquito bite -
they are quick out of the blocks. I see Peter mowing and take the wheelbarrow
across the road to collect his grass clippings. I shovel a full load, wheel it back
and tip it onto the white garden and there making a miraculous appearance
is a three foot Blue-tongue lizard luckily unharmed, playing dead in the fine grass shavings.
Peter said he didn't want it back, he has plenty.

Sunday 4th, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the National Wildlife Corridors Plan,
stretching across state borders and connecting the islands of protected areas.
A national network of wildlife pathways is a bold plan much needed.

Nov 1, dawn, Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Jamison Valley


Back in Sydney via the Newcastle Poetry Prize

Sculpture by the SeaNot a great year for art I thought,
but art surrounds you: the aesthetic of sky and sea, the rocks . . .  
Seung-Hwan Kim, 'organism'

surprise growthIn the bag,'time will tell' by Sally Kidall

. . . a South American beauty jogging past, 

and Cockies' aerials, 

fighting with the garbos.

Sydney has the worst traffic and air of any Australian city. 
We were shocked. We couldn't live back where we used to 
just two and half years ago. The air is wrong. 

[The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warns (March 2012)
there may be 3.6 million premature deaths a year from air particles, mainly in China and India.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) claim (Oct 2012) that air emissions 
in the Sydney basin have steadily declined since 1992]. 

“[The] diversity and intensity of the street provides a necessary but not sufficient condition
for social cohesion; people remain closed off from one another.”
Richard Sennett, ‘The Public Realm’, 2008

 Cooks River mangrove art. 

Saving Antarctica

The perfect landscape

                           extract from Antarctica an epic

Snow has begun to fall,
a man strolling down a boulevard
notices a few snowflakes settle
on the sleeve of his greatcoat.

Each one six sided,
each luring the unknown,
each one handmade by God
on a winter's day in Prague.

Years later he fell down the crevasse
of deep depression; he'd discovered
earth's orbit wanders wide of symmetry,
deviates from God's perfection.

What downgrades our existence?
The knowledge that Eden is under ice,
that the place of belonging with
its intimate seasons of regrowth is frozen?

Is depression part of original sin?
We teethe on fairy tales and true stories
of how heroes have nothing much to lose.
Gods, idols and the media keep us informed.

The faces in the photographs are black
with dried blood, soot and frostbite,
their bodies jig from the exploits;
reality stiffens in the icy distance.

The first polar photographers, Dunmore
and Critcheson were sent by an artist
to `study nature under the terrible aspect
    of the frigid zone'.

Compromise is necessary with exposure,
and patience needed for the weather to calm,
when snow crystals are their largest,
most beautiful and varied.

Antarctica is a perfect landscape.
Cameras prospect the ice attempting to fix
the supple colours holding their breath,
calendars reflect an apocryphal egg shell colour.

Tourists have begun to disembark
upon their monologues,
they desire to affirm
I was here therefore I am.

Red-browed Finch in Flannel flowers

Dolphins, Nambucca

Grey Butcher bird

Bushfires inland
Sat 20 Oct started off cool then warmed up to one of the hottest days,
Three roos.

Luckily no wind, or the fires in the New England NP, just to the west, would be worse.
It got to 41C in the shade at friend's farm nearby. Couldn't smell the smoke
bu the decks snowed in ash.

Coffs Marina, 16 Oct
Had a meeting with Solitary Islands staff, 
Wyn and I have been commissioned to work on their oral history project, poems and linocuts.

Jelly surfer

What kids should know
ED Hirsch a former professor at Yale specialising in the Romantic poets has become known much more widely for ‘Cultural Literacy’ and his argument that children need a body of "core knowledge" to function as fully rounded citizens. He has set up a Core Knowledge Foundation which spreads his ideas and they have reached the Coalition government in England.

10 things every year-1 child should know:
The trouble is the acorn has been recently excised  from the new Oxford Junior Dictionary (along with many of my childhood > : catkin, brook, minnow, acorn, buttercup, heron, raven, blackberry and conker.

My study

My album of the month
Barney McAll, Graft on Jazzhead. I first saw this inventive pianist many years ago at the Starfish Club, Clovelly
supporting the Necks, and for once the Necks were blown away. This new album is so varied from the blues
to the sublime with voice and choir remind
ing me of Maravishnu in their late Guru stage.
Other tracks are filmic and mysterious; there is so much going on.

Sunrise from Blue Poles 

Sunset, fire at Darkwood

Monday 1st

I punch and kick first, at first light as she stands in the bathroom mirror,

walk to the café for staple economies,  the paper and eggs,

Golden Whistlers sing to us on Bus-stop track

we walk back along the beach, it’s high tide

two or three families are sanding themselves in a Public Holiday,

there’s a body in the water  colour explodes  out of the monotone

of golden sand, a Striated Pardelote flies from its nest, a hole

in the small sand bank, lifts a few feet to perch and cleans

its bill against the wood of an old banksia flower and regards us

within easy reach, black capped, flashy gold and zinc eye stripe,

gold strips and a spot of scarlet on its flanks, the colours are so joyous

and the view so sharp I forget the camera.

Sunday birding at Darkwood along the Bellinger, off the road to Dorrigo

Listening to the John Cage celebrations. . . “If people learned to listen . . . listen”

So we enter the forest’s din of spring music 
adaptive traits offer advantages in reproductive competition 
and here it seems to be song from the Scarlet Honeyeaters, 
Black-faced Monarchs, a new nest, tiny Brown Thornbill. 
A forest can never be abandoned, a house can, easily.

“Couture used to say to his pupils: ‘keep good company, that is: go to the Louvre. But after having seen the great masters who repose there, we must hasten out and by contact with nature revive within ourselves the instincts, the artistic sensations which live in us.’ …
Cézanne to Charles Camoin, September 1903 

“But I must always come back to this: painters must devote themselves entirely to the study of nature and try to produce pictures which will be an education. Talking about art is almost useless."  Cézanne to Emile Bernard, May 1904

“My nervous system is very weak, only oil painting can keep me up. I must carry on. I simply must produce after nature . . . “  Cézanne letter to son 13 Oct 1906

“I continue to work with difficulty, but in the end there is something." Cézanne letter to son 15 Oct 1906

He died  on October 22, 1906, Aix-en-Provence.

Mulching in the garden, planting a rough hedge of swamp banksias. 
In our exotic garden the bees are attracted to the echium . . . 

Been helping guiding bird tours from the Birdlife weekend congress  to Belmore Swamp

Wonderful views of Brolgas, Frogmouth in nest, Swamp Harriers, etc etc.

Away for a few days

Sun up over the Kalang
Red Rock - memorial to a terrible Aboriginal massacre

Blue Pool, Angourie, sun up

A first day of summer, Sept 9, 30 degrees

Down to the sea for breakfast, a picnic of strawberries

plucked from the garden and oats - a Sooty Oystercatcher

watches us from dark rocky ledge filled in places

with mirrors, the sun is a fireball, sea is blinding

and deafening, the bird a silhouette, a witness, I never

see them eat as if that could be why they are listed

 as endangered. The rockpools move colour slowly.


Sea Hare
Common Limpet

Last night dreaming of tiny boats jiggling at anchor, glittering in a deep blue harbour,

I know, other people’s dreams are boring, so can other people’s jokes,

poems and confessions, but these were bright enough to remind of Derain

or sugar sweets , clean bright colours  of lollies, and at this point I’m lucid

and on waking think I am confusing Derain with Dufy.

The morning is loud with lorikeets as the sun spreads itself.

Flannel Flowers in bloom above our breakfast picnic spot

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